12 Classic Films for the Bucket List (Before You Kick It)

Snap out of West Side Story. Ditch Gone with the Wind. And don’t even think about playing Casablanca. They’re already on hundreds of lists. Why rehash the obvious? It’s boring. So without further ado:

1. Lilies of the Field (1963) Based on the novel by William Edmund Barrett, the film follows the story of a wandering jack-of-all trades (Sidney Poitier) who comes across a group of German nuns convinced he’s been sent by God to build them a church. I love this film.

2. My Man Godfrey (1936). A ditzy socialite (Carole Lombard) hires a hobo living in the dump as the family’s butler, then promptly falls in love with him. Whether he returns the affections is more doubtful, especially considering the utterly irrational in-laws he would be stuck with …

 3. Bringing Up Baby (1938) A prim paleontologist (Cary Grant) wants a sponsor to donate one million dollars to his museum, but messes it all up after getting mixed up with a harebrained woman and her leopard. My first screwball favorite.

 4. Rebecca (1940). Joan Fontaine plays a young, naïve bride tortured by the lingering presence of her husband’s deceased first wife. And also by the super creepy Mrs. Danvers.

5. To Have and Have Not (1944) This was Bogart and Bacall’s first film, and smolders with chemistry. Bogart rents a charter boat to tourists in Martinique and is asked to smuggle out resistance fighters. He refuses, but then has a fateful encounter with a pickpocket. Bacall was 19 (19!) when she filmed this.

6. It (1927) Clara Bow has definitely got “it” in this silent film. She plays a strong, independent working female set on getting what she wants … one of which happens to be the company’s head honcho.

7. Interrupted Melody (1955). This film is based on the life of Australian opera singer Marjorie Lawrence, who was struck by polio at the height of her career. It has fantastic famous opera scenes and stars the talented and gorgeous Eleanor Parker (the evil baroness from The Sound of Music).

 8And Then There Were None (1943) Psychological thriller based on Agatha Christie’s mystery. Ten guests are invited to a house on a lonely island and are killed off one by one. It’s creepy and suspenseful.

9. Carefree (1938) What list is complete without a film starring the iconic Astaire/Rogers duo? This one involves a psychologist, hypnosis, and skeet shooting gone hilariously awry. (Shall We Dance is another good film, and features the catchy “potato, patahto” song.)

10. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947). Gregory Peck plays a journalist who decides to experience anti-Semitism firsthand by saying he’s Jewish for two weeks. It’s thought-provoking and gives a revealing look at anti-Semitic sentiment during the 40s.

11. Seven Chances (1925). Critics and hardcore classic film buffs rave about The General, but do you ever hear much about Keaton’s Seven Chances? It’s got great visuals, obvious when the hero runs down a canyon in the midst of rocks that look like giant meatballs. Plus he gets chased by an angry horde of wannabe brides.

 12. Naughty Marietta (1935) Another film for the opera fan, starring Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. MacDonald plays a French princess who runs away to New Orleans to avoid marrying a stuffy old Spaniard. There’s a great scene with singing marionettes (they’re cute, really).


Westerns: The Big Country

Gregory Peck Jaz on The Big Country

It’s raining outside and I’m curled up on the couch with a cup of jasmine green tea and my laptop. I’m contemplating Westerns. Obviously — as evidenced by a previous post — Westerns aren’t my thing. The Big Country is an exception. Also Cowboys and Aliens. Because who doesn’t like a stubble-perfect, cowboy hat-clad Daniel Craig shooting down evil, slimy green extraterrestrials?

But back to The Big Country.

Starring Atticus Finch as Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston As Himself, The Big Country is all about standing up for human rights and finding whimsical objects hidden in tree nooks. Okay, maybe not the latter, but the film’s hero is a flawless, incredibly honorable and good-looking guy who wants to do the right thing by everyone even when what some people truly deserve is a good punch in the face.

The film starts as most Westerns do: a stranger comes into town and immediately ruffles the townsfolk’s carefully cultivated feathers. Land is at stake. More specifically, water. Two feuding families, the Terrills and Hannasseys, stand on either side, vying for control and trying to convince its owner, spunky Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons of Guys and Dolls fame), to sell. She refuses, knowing what will happen if she does.

What does the stranger have to do with all this? Nothing at first. James McKay (Peck), a retired sea captain, simply came out west to marry the ditzy blonde he met up north, not stir up trouble.  But she just so happens to be a Terrill … not to mention Heston’s – her father’s right hand man – love interest. Sparks fly. Guns shoot. Horses gallop. And Heston, thankfully, gets a good punch in the face.

Liz on The Big Country

“Have you ever seen anything so big?”


“You have? What?”

“A couple of oceans.”

“Oceans? Humph,” the local mutters as newcomer and ship’s captain Jim McKay walks away.

Brief Summary of The Big Country: Ship’s captain comes to fiancé’s western community and gets caught up in a feud between her wealthy family, the Terrills, and the despised and uncouth Hannasseys. Also caught between the groups is the fiancé’s friend Julie Maragon, who owns a large ranch with a year round water source both families want exclusive access to.

Gregory Peck (as Jim McKay) brings to the little western community where his fiancé Pat Terril lives everything from a new look with his fancy bowler hat to a new perspective on how big the country really is and why the notable citizens act as they do.

McKay’s father was killed in a duel, leaving McKay with a firm belief that a “good name needs no defense.” He accepts hazing from the Hannasseys (the “local trash” family hated by his wealthy fiancé’s family), declines riding bronco Old Thunder in front of everyone, even refuses to fight jealous foremen Charles Heston. McKay simply refuses to prove himself to anyone. Anyone but himself, that is. When watching the movie, I always want him to fight, to defend himself, to make sure everyone knows he’s not a coward. But I understand what he’s saying. You can’t go through your life proving yourself to others, getting your feather ruffled every time someone insults or mistreats you. In my opinion, this attitude can be taken too far, like by those who expect people to accept everything they do as right. Watch a few adventure movies, especially seafaring ones, and you’ll see the arrogant captains or adventures ordering their men to do dangerous or seemingly nonsensical things without explanation. It’s humbling to explain your actions, but sometimes a certain amount of “proving yourself” is a good thing.

An interesting angle to the caring what others think about you topic is McKay’s fiancé Pat’s response to the implication that he’s a coward. She expects him to fight and is humiliated when he doesn’t (“I’ve never been so humiliated in my life” is a comment she makes to him more than once), leading to tension between them. Her friend Julie even asks her “How many times does a man have to win you?”

Starring Gregory Peck, Carrol Baker at Pat Terrill, Jean Simmons as Julie Marragon, Charles Heston as the Terrill’s foreman, and Burl Ives as Rufus Hannasseys, and directed by Willim Wyler of Mrs.Miniver and Ben Hur fame, The Big Country is a must see. Whether its an aerial shot of riders snaking their way through Blanco Canyon or dust clouded wheels rolling to the fabulous score, The Big Country is, as Motion Picture Herald calls it, “a work of art.”

There are at least two great foreshadow lines in this movie. One of those happens at the beginning and the other near the end. I didn’t mention them to prevent spoilers, but if you want to whisper them in the comments section, I’d love to know if anyone else caught them.

Don’t forgot to leave a comment on this previous post for a chance to win two Robin Lee Hatcher Books!

Westerns: A Favorites List

As I mentioned in the last post, I love westerns. So, I decided to compile a list of those I’ve enjoyed watching. I’m sure I’ll remember many more after I post this, but here are a few you might enjoy when you feel in the mood for action and western scenery. Also see below for a chance to win Robin Lee Hatcher’s new book Betrayal.

Singing Cowboy Westerns and Other Saturday Matinee Westerns

The Zane Grey Classic Western Collection with Randolph Scott, Russell Hayden, and George O’Brien. Particularly enjoyed: Dude Ranger, Wagon Wheels, Knights of the Range, Arizona Raiders (with Flash Gordon actor Buster Crabbe). Haven’t read the books, but they were quite popular.

Gene Autry (especially those with Smiley Burnette as Frog Millhouse) Whirlwind, Gaucho Serenade, and most of the rest, except Phantom Empire, which has a strange fantasy twist to it

Roy Rogers

The Three Mesquites

Hopalong Cassidy

I have watched one Lone Ranger and didn’t care for it (everybody died except him), so I’m not recommending them.

Jimmy Stewart

The Far Country, Bend in the River, Rarebreed

Worth mentioning though not my favorites: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (also with John Wayne) and Winchester ‘73

John Wayne

Red River, Rio Bravo, Rio Grande, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Rio Lobo, McClintock, True Grit, The Cowboys, Stagecoach, Angel and the Badman, North to Alaska

Didn’t like: The Searchers, 3 Godfathers

Tyrone Power

Mark of Zorro It’s set in California, so it counts, right?

Rawhide Forced by stagecoach line owner father to work at a lonely stagecoach stop, Power’s only desire is to return to civilization until four escaped prisoners take over the stop and Power has to keep himself and stranded traveler Susan Hayward alive.


Westward the Women  Robert Taylor grudgingly takes a group of brides out west, including former girl-of-ill-repute Denise Darcel

The Hanging Tree Gary Cooper is a doctor with a secret in gold rush territory.

The Big Country This is a great Gregory Peck western, but don’t waste your time on Mackenna’s Gold

Four Faces West Joel McCrea steals $2000 from a bank in order to save his father’s ranch. He leaves an I.O.U note, works to pay the money back, and tries to stay out of jail without having to use his pistols. The nurse who tended to his rattlesnake bite encourages him to give himself up. Joel McCrea is said to be a star of many westerns, but this is the only one I recall seeing him in.

Ride ‘Em Cowboy and The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap Two fun Abbot and Costello westerns.

Can’t Help Singing An amusing western with singing star Deanna Durbin as a spoiled society girl running away to marry a soldier in California

Audie Murphy The Duel at Silvercreek

Cat Ballou Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin. Not my favorite, but it’s funny in parts. I’ve never seen a horse and rider lean against a wall like that before.

Note: You may have noticed a lack of Clint Eastwood movies. I’ve only seen part of Paint Your Wagon, and the only thing I liked about it was the music.

About the book giveaway

In exchange for a review, Zondervan sent me a copy of Robin Lee Hatcher’s new book Betrayal and the previous book in the Where the Heart Lives series, Belonging, to read and a copy to give away.

These inspirational Christian fiction romances are very enjoyable and are set out west, so it seems fitting that to enter to win the books, you must, in the comments section, either tell me your favorite western(s) or tell me why you want to win the books.

How will the winner be decided? By the tried and true method of drawing a commenter’s name from a hat.

If you want your name in the hat more than once: Subscribe to the blog and tell me you did in the comments section (or that you already have subscribed), follow me on twitter (@e_kitchens), or remind me of a great western (as in one that I enjoyed) but I forgot to mention.

I will post my review of Betrayal tomorrow. A post on The Big Country and an announcement of the winner will follow next week.